The UK should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia while Saudi actions in neighbouring Yemen are investigated, a draft report by MPs has said.
The Committees on Arms Export Controls said it was highly likely that weapons had been used to violate international humanitarian and human rights laws.
The draft report has been seen by the BBC’s Newsnight programme.
The UK government said it had received assurances from Saudi Arabia but the committee said this was not sufficient.
Establish the facts
The government has faced sustained pressure to suspend the sale of weapons to the country amid claims that international humanitarian law has been breached in fighting between the Yemeni government, backed by Saudi Arabia, and Shia Yemeni rebels.
On Monday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson defended the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia for potential use in Yemen, insisting the export of weapons to the country would continue.
The Committees on Arms Export Controls is made up of four parliamentary committees – business, innovation and skills; defence; foreign affairs; and international development.
Its draft report, seen by Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse, said: “The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia.”
The committee said it seemed “inevitable” that such violations had involved arms supplied by the UK which would mean it was in violation of its own legal obligations.
The UK government said it operated one of the strictest arms licensing regimes in the world, and maintained it had received assurances from Saudi Arabia that it operated within the boundaries of international law.
The draft report concluded that those assurances were not sufficient and the UK should suspend exports until an international and independent inquiry could establish the facts.
Washington (CNN)House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed that Democrats who took control of the House floor in June and held a 25-hour sit-in to protest the lack of action on gun control measures will face punishment soon for breaking House rules.
“There are numerous rules that were broken. That’s not the way a democracy works and I think you will see appropriate measure taken in the very near future,” McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol, adding, “Are you going to let the House stand with that behavior going forward? I think it would create real damage to the reputation of the House in the long term.”
House Republican leaders are discussing several options as potential penalties, including voting on a resolution that condemns the sit-in or leveling fines for rule violations, according to a senior GOP leadership aide familiar with the discussions.
During the protest in June, dozens of House Democrats sat on the floor in the well, chanted and yelled when Republicans attempted to move onto legislative business, actions which are breaches of floor decorum.
House Rules include specific parameters for when a member can speak, and whom they can address from the podium in the front of the chamber.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, the civil rights icon who was beaten by police in the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, was one of the leaders of the effort, which gained national attention. Democrats demanded that the House vote on a bill that would deny gun sales to individuals on a government “no fly list” designed to flag potential threats to airlines. They also urged action on legislation requiring background checks for gun purchases.
Several Democrats involved in the protest also used mobile phones to broadcast their demonstration using streaming social media apps after the official cameras that film floor business, which are controlled by the GOP majority, were turned off when the chamber went into recess.
Despite the high-profile protest, Democrats failed to secure votes on any gun measures.
After the episode, which forced GOP leaders to abruptly cancel business for the week and start a scheduled recess early, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was troubled by the precedent it set and told reporters that he and other leaders were investigating with administrators and considering what type of penalties they might impose.
McCarthy said Tuesday he has spoken with several Democrats about the episode and that they admitted they broke rules and understood there would be consequences.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sat down for a rare interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. The almost two-hour conversation in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok delved into subjects ranging from the U.S. presidential election to the Syrian civil war, oil prices and state asset sales.
Joerg Forbrig, senior program director of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. in Berlin:
Here, he is basically saying: look how degenerate American democracy has become. And without having to spell it out, this obviously contrasts sharply with the ever-so-orderly conduct of elections in Russia.
Second, there is Putins complaint of the anti-Russian card being played in the elections. Although the Russian aspect emerged in the campaign only with the revelations of DNC hacking and Manafort funding, Putin is now portraying this as a central theme in the presidential race. This is effectively, again for Russians, elevating Russia as a central political pole in the world that shapes, by its very existence, the domestic politics even of the U.S., not to mention minor countries.
Tim Ash, a strategist at Nomura International in London:
Theres clearly messaging here for audiences both abroad and home. With him, its all about power and control, making him look bigger and stronger and his opponents weaker.
There was a period when anyone but Hillary would have been good for him. Maybe thats changed now, because he considers Trump unpredictable, someone who could be difficult to deal with.
In a way, hes possibly just trying to keep the whole situation warm. Hes trying to give some more momentum to the issue. Its pretty clear that Putin is no friend of Hillary Clinton, he sees her as hawkish, and she is a respected foreign policy person who knows him too well. It is a bit of a dig directed at her.
For the Russian public, hes saying look at western democracies, look at western ideals. Their politicians have double standards, they arent to be trusted. Duma elections are coming up, so essentially hes making the contrast that we can be trusted, this would never happen in Russia.
Vladimir Miklashevsky, senior strategist at Danske Bank A/S in Helsinki:
He sounds quite confident about the economic situation despite a second year of recession. His comment about staying out of the eurobond market was surprisingly confident.
Putin showed that hes keeping a close eye on the economic issues and the budget, much closer than investors believed before. His words about letting the central bank act freely and his dislike towards capital controls are attractive long-term foreign investors. His encouraging wording about the privatization of Rosneft are also surprisingly positive.
Id characterize his recent messages as well-thought-out, targeting and encouraging possible long term investors.
Mike Coleman, founder of the Singapore-based Merchant Commodity hedge fund:
“The production freeze doesnt do anything. You are freezing at record production. Its more symbolic, indicating a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. But to have a meaningful impact on prices, you need a production cut.”
James Brown, associate professor at Temple University in Tokyo, who published a book this year on the territorial dispute:
Its a very clear message to the Japanese side that the Russians are absolutely delighted to do business with them, that they are delighted by Abe going to Vladivostok, but theres absolutely no movement on the territorial issue.
The key thing for me is that he says that Russia doesnt trade in territories. He also talks about Russias possession of the Kuril Islands being the result of World War II and warns that any effort to revise the results of that conflict would be opening a Pandoras Box, with serious implications for Europe as well as East Asia. Thats also very clearly saying that hes not actually considering anything beyond the 1956 agreement. From the Russian point of view, they dont want to go beyond transferring the two small islands, they dont want to give up territory that Soviet soldiers shed blood for. The Russian position hasnt changed. These attempts by the Japanese side, the offers of economic cooperation, havent led to a shift.
The Russians see Japan as changing their position, not Russia changing theirs, so there isnt really much cause for optimism from the Japanese side. There will be closer economic ties, there may also be closer security ties, but the territorial dispute will remain fixed.
Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of London-based consulting firm Cornerstone Global Associates:
Theyre reaching a point, the U.S. and Russia, where they really want to sort out the Syria crisis. I think there will have to be compromises on both sides and I think this is where its headed to.
Obviously its not an easy road because youve got Assad. Is he going to stay or not? The likelihood of him having a smaller role is increasing.
On the other side, who is defined as radical and who is defined as acceptable opposition? That is going to be a very difficult task.
There will be compromises, and I would say if I were to predict, I think it will be Assad and a part of the opposition that will have to be sacrificed by either side in order to agree on some sort of a settlement.
Oleg Kouzmin, chief economist for Russia at Renaissance Capital in Moscow:
The fact that president mentioned all possible alternatives on privatization signals that the topic is actively discussed and is on the agenda.
While privatization helps cover the budget deficit, it also corresponds with the strategy of reducing the states share in the economy. And as these two targets coincide and Putin answered in details on the sale of state assets, that tells us that the chances for privatization are higher now.”
With assistance from Vivian Nereim and Javier Blas.
Bayer AG sweetened its takeover bid for Monsanto Co. a second time as the German chemical company said its in advanced talks to snare the U.S. seed giant in what would be the largest agriculture-related takeover.
Bayer would be prepared to pay $127.50 a share provided a negotiated deal can be reached, it said Monday in a statement. The new offer is 2 percent more than Bayers previous bid and 19 percent above St. Louis-based Monsantos last closing price. Theres no assurance an agreement will be reached, Bayer said. A spokeswoman for Monsanto said the company didnt immediately have a comment on the latest proposal.
The latest offer, which values Monsanto at about $56 billion excluding debt, falls short of some predictions about what the company will have to pay to secure a takeover agreement. Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein have previously said Monsanto may decide to sell if Bayer raises its offer to $135 a share.
Bayer made its first offer of $122 a share in May. That was rejected by Monsanto as too low, as was the higher offer of $125 a share made in July, but Monsanto later granted its suitor some access to its financial accounts for the purposes of due diligence ahead of a potentially revised bid. Monsantos shares have declined since Bayers initial bid in May, and closed at $107.44 in New York on Friday. There was no trading Monday because of the Labor Day holiday.
The offer from Bayer marks a reversal of roles for the U.S. company. Monsanto has long sought to become a one-stop shop for farmers by boosting its crop chemicals portfolio to complement its seeds business. To that end, it had pursued the purchase of Syngenta AG on at least three separate occasions over the years.
The crop and seed industry is being reshaped by a series of large transactions that may end up leaving just a few global players who can offer a comprehensive range of products and services to farmers. China National Chemical Corp. agreed in February to acquire Syngenta. Meanwhile, DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. plan to merge and then carve out a new crop-science unit.
Monsanto called off its Syngenta bid last year, while more recently it has revived talks to buy BASF SEs agrochemicals unit. Falling crop prices have weighed on Monsantos profits and share price in the past year, making it vulnerable to a takeover.
Buying Monsanto would give Bayer a company thats both the worlds largest seed supplier and a pioneer of crop biotechnology. The kind of genetically modified seeds that Monsanto started to commercialize two decades ago now account for the majority of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. Monsanto also sells seeds in foreign markets including Latin America and India.
The company was founded in 1901 and its first product was saccharin, the artificial sweetener. It produced highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, until the late 1970s, and was also among companies to manufacture the mixture of herbicides known as Agent Orange. In the past two decades it has pioneered the commercialization of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. GMO varieties of corn and soybeans now account for the majority of those crops in the U.S.
Jim Rutenberg, a media columnist for the New York Times, said that allowing press on planes is less about gathering colorful anecdotes and more about the candidate’s future transparency as president.
This is about something much bigger than eyewitness accounts and plane rides. Its about how much we want to know about each candidates plans for the White House, and how open and accessible we want them to be as president. And ultimately, its about whether we truly believe in the premise that transparency is vital for democracy.
Clinton’s shift on Monday is particularly significant because the Democratic nominee hasn’t held a formal news conference with journalists since December 2015 in Iowa, according to the AP.
Trump has gone several steps beyond that: He’s banned the Washington Post, Univision, Buzzfeed and other media outlets from receiving press credentials to cover his campaign events, including news conferences.
Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are great and all, but they can be broad.
For those who want more specific communities to cater to their odd tastes, a bunch of social networks exist that are designed to be more accessible to those who those who march to the beat of their own drum.
And important note: not all of these are open yet, or still open in the case of some super-niche entries.
1. Discuss cars with the Top Gear stars
Designed for fans of both the late-but-popular Top Gear show and fans of cars in general (not that there isn’t a huge overlap there), the upcoming social network DriveTribe is a personal project of stars Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.
While information is limited since it’s not ready yet, Clarkson and company have confirmed that users will be able to join a “tribe” led by one of the three stars. It’s currently slated to open up in autumn of this year, around the premiere of the trio’s new show, The Grand Tour.
It may feel strange listing “books” as a niche interest, but in the age of Netflix and the internet, they sort of are.
The most prominent book-related social network is GoodReads, which besides offering tons and tons of book reviews, helps users find new book recommendations based on which ones they’ve read (which here, also means books they’ve checked off on the site).
Without question, food pictures are the cornerstone of the modern photo-sharing site (yes, we mean Instagram). A self-described “Photo journal for all things food,” the Yummi app allows you to post photos of any and all the food you want, without fear of judgement.
But this is mostly just a food photo journal. If you wanted actual recipe sharing, there’s BakeSpace, which has a more established user base.
If you ever found yourself on an airplane and thinking to yourself, “I really want to talk to other people currently on airplanes,” Virgin America airlines briefly had the answer.
Using the business networking app Here on Biz, airplane passengers would get enough free wifi to chat not only with other passengers, but with other fliers on Virgin America flights and even the pleasant and excited folks at the airport. Of which there are definitely tons.
It only seemed to last a few months until July 2014. Virgin America hasn’t spoke much of it since, perhaps because airplanes and airports are eternally full of grouches.
5. Talk about being super-rich with super-rich people
Back in 2014, composer and rich person James Touchi-Peters decided that his social media was being cluttered with too many members of the common rabble. And so he created his own, with a $9000 entry fee and a $3000 yearly subscription to keep said rabble from his digital country club.
Called The Netropolitan Club, it had a brief run before shutting down due to a lack of membership. Apparently, most millionaires and billionaires are perfectly fine with Twitter. Elon Musk certainly is.
Sure feels weird to find myself defending the robots
While quiz-taking app QuizUp has been around for awhile, last year the app completed a gradual transition into a social networking app where you can also take tons of quizzes.
Because QuizUp now contains user searches, comment sections, photo sharing and all the other facets of a standard social network. The app also works to connect you with people who take quizzes about the same topics, allowing you to finally bond with other Walking Dead trivia masters.
7. Attempt to make digital money by commenting
If you’ve been concerned that you’re not making any money by tweeting, the creators of Steemit had the same worries. And so the money-making social network was born.
Styled mostly after sites like Reddit, Steemit allows you to obtain small amounts of “Steem” currency by posting popular threads, or writing out top-rated comments. Your digital money can then be turned into more digital money, because Steem has a conversion service into Bitcoin.
8. Walk around and catch Pokmon
Yeah, yeah, of course you’ve heard about Pokmon Go, and it doesn’t market itself as a social network. But it helps you interact with people by going outside, lets you lead gyms that other users can battle against, and has led to tons of events and gatherings.
Basically, it’s doing social networking better than actual social networks, and even businesses are using it to advertise to users (the real point of social media).
At the weekend, the Sunday Mirror published pictures it said showed Mr Vaz with male sex workers in a flat in north London that he owns. Illegal drugs were mentioned during a secretly recorded conversation.
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said he would refer the matter to the Commons Standards commissioner and may also report Mr Vaz to police.
Married father-of-two Mr Vaz said he was referring the paper’s allegations to his solicitor.
A cross-party call for multinational companies to publish details of where they do their business and the tax they pay has been agreed by the government.
The move for greater transparency follows controversy over a deal between the UK government and Google to repay 130m in back taxes earlier this year.
Ministers have accepted proposals that would oblige Revenue and Customs in principle to release data on tax paid.
The amendment to the Finance Bill had been backed by 60 MPs.
Speaking in the Commons during a debate on the proposed legislation, Treasury minister Jane Ellison said the government strongly believed in “greater tax transparency and greater public disclosure of the tax affairs of large businesses”.
“For these reasons the government fully supports the intentions of the amendment and is supporting its inclusion in the bill,” she added.
Caroline Flint, the Labour MP who proposed the amendment, said she and her colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee believed the way that global multinationals “play the system denies a fair take for HMRC which impacts on our public services”.
This, she added, was “very unfair to those British taxpayers and businesses for whom such complicated organisation of their tax affairs is not an option”.
The Treasury’s “sweetheart deal” with US technology giant Google earlier this year, which covered money owed since 2005, was criticised as derisory by critics. The settlement followed a six-year inquiry by Revenue and Customs.
Last month, the European Commission ruled that Ireland should recover up to 13bn (11bn) from fellow tech company Apple in back taxes.